On September 30th, 2016, on the occasion of completion of the “Plastic-Bag Free Alonissos” Project, implemented by the Mediterranean SOS Network and MOm/Society for the Study and Protection of the Mediterranean Monk Seal, funded by Thalassa Foundation, an Info-Day titled “The Plastic Bag Problem in Greece: Present situation, challenges and best practices” was held at PPA in Piraeus.
Every action and project bears its own merit. However, equally important are their aftereffects, that is the “next day” situation of the plastic bag in our country, both in terms of the institutional level and of consumer behavior, in order to have specific outcomes in the reduction of its use.
Municipalities play a vital role in motivating and representing local communities and it is very important that projects such as the “Plastic Bag-Free Alonissos” one are supported by the central government to mobilize and offer incentives to municipalities and citizens around the country.
All presentations were especially interesting and the representation of bodies and organisations was plenteous so that all aspects of the issue were covered.
It is worthwhile noting that the representative of Surfrider Foundation Europe, Mrs. Gaëlle Haut, mentioned in her speech that 70% of European citizens support the ban of plastic bags, a fact that confirms that circumstances have reached a level of maturity that would permit the total disengagement of consumers from this packaging means, as well as the need to strengthen cooperative schemes and actions to this end.
The presentations made by NGOs that followed were full of overwhelming evidence and photographic material and shed light on the effects of plastic bags and other plastic litter on marine life. Indicatively, the volume of plastic bags is such that monk seals cannot find adequate space to give birth to their pups, consequently being pushed to compete with each other, that autopsies on the majority of sperm whales have proven the existence of plastic residue in their organisms and that the consumption of plastics prohibits sea turtles to dive, whereas according to studies, by 2050, 99% of seabirds will have consumed plastics.
Regarding the integration of the EU Directive 2015/720/ΕΕ in our national laws, the representative of EOAN (Hellenic Recycling Agency) Mrs. Efi Tritopoulou stressed that this should be completed by November 27th and that for the thinnest plastic bag, a non-reciprocating charge seems to be the best option, with a possibility of extending the measure to the thicker one of 50-100 μm.
The info-day was completed with a round table discussion with the participation of the Mayor of Alonissos Mr. Petros Vafinis, as well as representatives of similar initiatives from other islands, i.e. Santorini, Sikinos, Sifnos, Skiathos and Syros. During the discussion, the other initiatives were presented and once again, the vital role of the municipalities was stressed as the most effective means of generating impact, bringing about the embracing of the projects by the local communities and a change in consumer behavior. Then it was time for a discussion with the rest of the attendants.